Growing up in Yakima, Wash., jewelry designer Isaiah Garza didn’t have much. At one point, his family had their home and car repossessed, forcing them into homelessness. Still, difficulties aside, Garza stayed the course, working hard to collect scholarships before moving to Los Angeles to study fashion, business and marketing at his dream school, the Fashion Institute of Design & Marketing (FIDM).
“I was a small town kid, but I had a huge heart,” he told In The Know. “I was like, ‘You know, no matter what happens in my life, I’m going to make sure, when this is all said and done, I’m going to make something happen.'”
Surrounded by whom he described as “rich” peers, Garza said he aspired to “compete” at the same level. And despite initially having little experience in design, he beat several top students in the field to win FIDM’s “Designer of Tomorrow” award — a one-year scholarship worth nearly $30,000.
Following his graduation in 2014, Garza started his own jewelry line, which has since taken off. Offering a select variety of pendants and earrings, the designer has seen his clientele expand to include several A-list celebrities — namely Cardi B, Janet Jackson, Rihanna, Chance the Rapper and Khloe Kardashian. His work has also been featured in Vogue, Elle, Cosmopolitan and Refinery29.
“It’s still, to me, pretty wild and insane,” he said. “Sometimes, I look back at the images, and I’m like, ‘Yo, that’s pretty crazy.'”
Amid his success, Garza decided to take a stab at making music as well. The road, however, wasn’t easy. Garza said he received pushback from friends, some of whom had supposedly garnered “30 million streams” — as he puts it — on Spotify but refused to help him launch his own music career. Eventually, the designer found a mentor who assisted him with the production of his first single “Pretend,” which was released last August and played by a Las Vegas radio station.
“My goal was, of course, let’s make this song,” he said. “Let’s see where it goes, you know?”
Yet, even with all of his talents, Garza said he didn’t feel “completely fulfilled.”
“I always had this drive and passion to want to make an impact and help people,” he said. “And that’s kind of where I started making videos, where I just kind of wanted to motivate people and make people feel happy and inspire people.”
After failing to gain any traction on YouTube with his clips, Garza turned to TikTok, a social media platform that boasts more than 700 million active monthly users worldwide. With over a million followers now, the designer shares videos of his acts of kindness toward everyday people, some of whom are homeless or are in unfortunate circumstances.
“I want people to see what I’m doing and inspire them to become their own leader,” he said. “I want to inspire them to believe in what they can do. I want to inspire them that we only have one life to live.”
In one TikTok posted on Aug. 30, for instance, Garza stops his car next to a homeless woman without any shoes and offers to buy her a pair.
“I have a question for you,” he tells the woman. “So, I’m out here just kind of spreading love right now. Is there any way I can give you some cash and buy you a pair of shoes?”
When the women says yes and gives him her shoe size, Garza promptly goes to the store, purchases a pair of Nikes and gives them to her. He also hands her an extra $40, bringing the woman to tears. Since then, Garza’s clip has received nearly 6 million views.
“She is an incredible human being,” he told In The Know. “I’ve had so many awesome conversations with her the last week, two weeks, and I’ve been in contact with, like, SRO [Housing Corporation] to get her into permanent housing.”
And though TikTok has provided Garza a platform to do good, he’s given back to the community in other ways, too. Through his jewelry business, the designer donates 20 percent of his profits to human trafficking survivors. He also works with Children of the Night — a Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization that aims to stop sex trafficking — and speaks at schools to encourage students to aim high.
“I always told myself, ‘Eventually I want to, you know, change kids’ lives from my hometown,'” he said.
Ultimately, through his activism, Garza wants to make an impact that transcends his work as a designer, artist and TikTok influencer.
“I want people to have that feeling when they hear my story and say, ‘You know what? He did it, I could do it, too, and I could do it even better,'” he said.
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